ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Weston Ochse is a former intelligence officer and special operations soldier who has engaged enemy combatants, terrorists, narco smugglers, and human traffickers. His personal war stories include performing humanitarian operations over Bangladesh, being deployed to Afghanistan, and a near miss being cannibalized in Papua New Guinea. His fiction and non-fiction has been praised by USA Today, The Atlantic, The New York Post, The Financial Times of London, and Publishers Weekly. The American Library Association labeled him one of the Major Horror Authors of the 21st Century. His work has also won the Bram Stoker Award, been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and won multiple New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards. A writer of more than 26 books in multiple genres, his military supernatural series SEAL Team 666 has been optioned to be a movie starring Dwayne Johnson. His military sci fi series, which starts with Grunt Life, has been praised for its PTSD-positive depiction of soldiers at peace and at war. Weston likes to be called a chaotic good paladin and challenges anyone to disagree. After all, no one can really stand a goody two-shoes lawful good character. They can be so annoying. It's so much more fun to be chaotic, even when you're striving to save the world. You can argue with him about this and other things online at Living Dangerously or on Facebook at Badasswriter. All content of this blog is copywrited by Weston Ochse.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Ode to My Fat Boy Shoes

I’m writing this from Afghanistan. I’ve lost 40 pounds so far and am able to do all the exercises I couldn’t do just three months ago. I arrived here with my Fat Boy Shoes, and I’m not going to leave here with them. But out of respect and honor to their service, I want to compose an ode to them, for although I’m leaving them, I never want to forget them.

Here it is. (You’ll forgive me if I forgo the lyrical stanza structure and provide you just the narrative. If you just have to have something in the background, try humming either Boy George’s Karma Chameleon or Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing.)

I’ve had a love-hate affair with running shoes for years. I love shoes. I love the colors. I love the styles. I am a marketer’s dream client. But I can’t wear everything I want to wear.

Sound familiar?
My Fat Boy Shoes

Add to that the fact that my weight crept up so high that wearing those fabulous-looking running shoes made me feel like a rhinoceros trying to balance on the head of a pin. I eventually gave up on any hope of wearing the cool shoes and was forced to buy high tops, or what I call fat boy shoes. Had I been playing basketball with them, then they could have been called basketball shoes, but I don’t play basketball. I try and run. I lumber. I limp. Nope. They might have been sold as basketball shoes, but they were fat boy shoes to me.

So what happened?

Somewhere back at Fort Bragg, right in the middle of doing physical training once every morning and once every evening, I got full blown stress fractures. At the hospital, the images of my shins in the fluoroscopy looked like the San Andreas fault back when the earth was formed. They wanted me to wear crutches. They wanted me to stay off my feet. Were they crazy? I was in a Special Operations unit. I couldn’t do that.

So for the next ten years in the U.S. Army, I spent dodging more stress fractures, best friend to shin splints, and cousin to the constant pain I felt running. Now realize I was an All City hurdler in high school and a soccer player who’d caught the attention of several college coaches. So I could run. I could run really fast.

That is until Fort Bragg. It’s funny, I don’t blame Fort Bragg, because some of the best and worst times of my life occurred there. But when we talk about my feet and people ask me what happened, I always tell them Fort Bragg happened.

But what really happened has happened to a lot of us. An injury starts us on a slippery slope that ends with us years later looking back, noticing that we’d gained a ton of weight and wondering what happened. The feet and shins are tricky parts of the body. They are our platform, our base. We can’t do hardly anything without them.

And when I call it a slippery slope, I’m not kidding. Ever try and climb back up a waterslide? It can’t be done. That’s foot and shin problems for you. The longer it hurts, the less you do, the less you do, the more weight you gain, the more weight you gain, the more it hurts, the more it hurts... sound familiar yet?

Like most people, I’d get sick and tired of looking this way or the New Year would turn and I’d decide to make the change now. I’d strap on my shoes, whatever shoes I’d last been using, usually bought because they had a cool design and made me look as sleek as a cougar and go out and exercise for about a week, until my feet and shins would start to hurt, then I’d stop.

I suppose one of my problems was that my solution to getting back in shape was to run. Blame the Army for that. No. Better yet, blame Fort Bragg. I couldn’t help it. We ran everywhere. It was what we did. It was who we were. Sure, I could have done other exercises, but those hurt my feet too. So if my feet were going to hurt anyway, I might as well do the thing that lost the most weight in the shortest amount of time. Running.

My last year in the Army I met a Navy doctor at Balboa Hospital in San Diego. Bless her soul, she took one look at me, had me walk up and down the hallway for a few moments, and was able to diagnose what dozens of Army doctors had treated with a no-running profile and the admonishment to get used to the pain. She told me I was a pronator. I said, ‘Excuse me?’ Then she explained that pronation was a rotation of the foot as it struck the ground. Not only was I a pronator, but I was an over pronator. My mom was right. I always overdo everything.

In more scientific terms, according to Runner’s World, it’s explained as: As with the "normal pronation" sequence, the outside of the heel makes the initial ground contact. However, the foot rolls inward more than the ideal fifteen percent, which is called "overpronation." This means the foot and ankle have problems stabilizing the body, and shock isn't absorbed as efficiently. At the end of the gait cycle, the front of the foot pushes off the ground using mainly the big toe and second toe, which then must do all the work.  

A lot of bad stuff happens because of this. The more I weigh, the more the rotation messes with my foot, the less stable it becomes, and more bad stuff happens.

Enough of the science.

What was cool was that she was able to go to her computer, type in my problem, and tell me the exact pair of New Balance running shoes I needed. It seemed that those weren’t just random numbers on their shoes as I’d been thinking. As it turned out, the numbers referred to a certain condition each shoe was trying to fix. I took the number she gave me, went to a store, bought those shoes and never looked back.

If only that was the end of the story. Gosh, I love happy endings.  But it wasn’t. I got the shoes. I started running and my feet felt amazing. So amazing I ran more and faster and kept doing it until, my feet started hurting.



Then I retired from the military and the Veteran’s Administration thought my feet were bad enough that they cut me a check every month. Lot of good that does my feet, though. Or my weight. I retired my cool New Balances and eventually ended up with my Fat Boy Shoes.

And that lasted ten years until recently.

So what happened?

How’d I stop the cycle?

I started to think about my feet and legs as individual parts of my body that needed to get in shape. It’s a bow change idea. I’d been thinking of them as means to an end, but they were far more important than that. I needed to build them up and get them strong before I could start any of the Fort Bragg stuff—you know—running.

When I started this leg of my journey, I was 275 pounds. I wore my Fat Boy Shoes when I exercised. I couldn’t run. Life sucked. Then I discovered no-impact exercising in the form of Diamond Dallas Page Yoga (DDP Yoga). Not only was this no impact, but I could do it barefoot. I did this for a month and lost 15 pounds (Of course I ate well, etc, but that’s another article.). Then I lost another five pounds and began to run as daintily as a 255 pound man can on a treadmill, terrified and afraid that I might hurt my feet again and start the vicious cycle all over. And low and behold, my feet started to ache.

Instead of driving on or quitting, like I normally did, I tried something new. I looked at my legs and thought that I needed to make them stronger, especially the muscles around my knees. DDP Yoga was doing this, but I wanted something else, so I began working out on the stairmaster or some version of it. The burn, the burn, the burn. My god did my legs burn. But it was a good burn.

About this time I began to research Vibram Five Finger Shoes. I read how they were made for natural runners, the type who pronated. Hey! That’s me? So I ordered some Five Finger Bikilas, they arrived in the mail, and I proceeded to walk around like a human platypus. Even the walls laughed at me.

But I got used to them. I began to do stairmaster in them. I began to run in them. And miracle of miracles, I was faster and stronger than in my Fat Boy Shoes. They hurt after awhile, but it was a different sort of hurt, one that I’d learned was part of breaking these special weird shoes in.

I began doing Kettle Get Ups, which entail laying on your back with your hand holding a kettle bell straight in the air as if you were the Statue of Liberty, then standing straight up, then laying back down. These helped my legs and my core.

I began doing burpees, which begins from the standing position, you drop and do a push up and stand back up again. These helped my legs and my core.

And I began doing spinning, which entails riding a stationary bicycle with a few dozen others, while music is blaring, a man in spandex is screaming at you, and you legs are burning so much that you think they are on fire. These also helped my legs and my core.

I sent home for my running shoes. I can wear them now. They feel good. I switch off between my shoes and my toe shoes. I love the feeling of both. Switching off for me works right now. I’m not sure if I’ll ever stick with one or the other. Right now, I don’t have to. I love them both.

The one thing that I do know is that my legs are stronger. My feet have been taken care of. And now I’ve lost 40 pounds. I’m going to lose another 10 most definitely. Hopefully 20 more. Whatever happens happens. This is all part of my self-improvement program.

I no longer feel like I’m on the waterslide trying to climb back up. I no longer feel stuck in a cycle. This is good. I couldn’t have started this journey without my Fat Boy Shoes. But like most training wheels, you reach a point where you don’t need them anymore.

So if you’re in Afghanistan and you see a kid wearing my old Fat Boy Shoes, give him a wave. My guess is he saw them and thought, hey, these are cool, they’ll make me run fast like a cougar.
 * * *

Please Note: This article is copyrighted by Weston Ochse. Any reproduction in whole or in part without the author’s permission is prosecutable by public law. If you'd like to borrow part of this or see it reprinted, contact me here. Thank you. © 2013


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